We’re living in strange and interesting times — and beginning to understand why “May you live in interesting times” was used as a curse by ancient peoples. The coronavirus pandemic has taken the world by storm, triggering lockdown, social distancing and fear among global populations. Most of us never lived through a worldwide epidemic, and many — including the millennials who grew up wishing for the zombie apocalypse — aren’t sure how to react.
How does the coronavirus pandemic compare to similar events in recent history? How have we prepared, how could we do better and what should you be doing to keep yourself and your family safe?
1918 vs. 2020
In 1918, more than 100 years ago, the world faced another pandemic with the Spanish Flu. There are a lot of parallels between the 1918 outbreak and the current coronavirus crisis. For one, these are both novel diseases — strains the human immune system had never before encountered. The Spanish Flu infected more than 500 million people around the globe and resulted in more than 50 million deaths, making it the deadliest flu season in recorded history.
Right now, in the midst of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, there are more than 3 million confirmed cases around the globe, with 228,000 deaths — at least of the time of this writing. That sounds like a significant difference between the two infections, but some scary parallels have experts on edge.
You Are Here
Right now, where the coronavirus is concerned, we’re focusing on things like social distancing and flattening the curve. This situation means that we’re taking steps — staying home, wearing masks when we leave the house and only going out for essentials — to reduce the number of new infections and protect the most vulnerable parts of our population.
When we compare our current events to the 1918 Spanish Flu, we’re in the calm before the storm. Right now, states and politicians are looking for ways to safely open their states back up and allow people to go back to work. While this option might be good for the economy, there’s a historical precedent that tells us why this is a bad idea.
Decision-makers did the same thing in 1918. They thought the Spanish Flu was gone, so they took off their masks and got together in big groups to celebrate the end of the plague.
However, this miscalculation caused the second wave of infections that was even deadlier than the first. When it comes to the coronavirus, if it continues to follow the same pattern as the Spanish Flu, things could get a lot worse before they start to get better.
Preparations and Changes
Today, we know a lot more about how viruses work than we did in 1918. During the Spanish Flu, we didn’t know what the disease was, what caused it or how to treat it.
We didn’t see the first flu vaccine in the United States until the 1940s, nearly two decades after the deadliest flu season in history. Now, we have a new vaccine every year. In two years, we may have an annual vaccine to protect us from coronavirus season, too, depending on how the rest of this year unfolds.
Just like today, in 1918, businesses were ordered to close or to open in staggered shifts to prevent overcrowding that would contribute to the disease spreading. Plus, like today, some people refused to comply with the rules to prevent the spread of the flu. Now we have protesters, and in 1918, there was the Anti-Mask League that did much the same.
They say those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In reality, it’s more like those of us who have learned from history are damned to watch everyone else repeat it.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
With so much conflicting information out there, what can you do to protect yourself and your family from the coronavirus, both now and moving forward?
First, make sure you’re following social distancing rules. These guidelines may vary depending on your location. Still, in general, you should stay six feet away from anyone outside your immediate household, only leaving when necessary and washing your hands frequently to prevent the spread of the disease.
The fear of the virus — or possibly the fear of what other people might do — has also increased gun sales in the United States. In the months since the disease reached U.S. soil, the country has seen it’s highest ever spike in firearms sales. Even before the pandemic, the most civilian gun owners fell into the protector category — those that don’t consider themselves outdoorsy but purchase a gun for the sole purpose of protecting their family.
When you do go out for supplies, make sure you’re only buying what you need. Store shelves cleared out at the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s still nearly impossible to find things like Lysol, toilet paper or other cleaning products. For the most part, however, store shelves are now relatively well-stocked. Keep in mind that buying more than you can use at the expense of others doesn’t make you a prepper — it just makes you a jerk.
The Future of the Coronavirus Pandemic
As it stands, we still don’t have enough definitive information about the coronavirus to make any predictions. Nevertheless, if the parallels between this pandemic and the 1918 Spanish Flu continue to line up, we’ve got a lot more heading our way before things will start to get better.
The best thing we can do at this point is to collect information and take all the steps necessary to protect ourselves and our families. COVID-19 is new for everyone — even the scientists racing to find a vaccine and the doctors looking for effective treatments. in the meantime, the best thing we can do is stay healthy and safe while they do their jobs. Protect yourself, protect your family and be kind to one another. We’ll make it through this one day at a time.